A helicopter tour for four over Manhattan, a YMCA family membership and a day at the races with VIP box seats were just three of more than 200 gifts auctioned off Oct. 4 at the Carriage Barn Arts Center at a benefit for Thorpe Family Residences.
Ann and Stephen Wronski, with the help of their fellow New Canaan residents, raised $42,730 -- 8 percent of the operating budget for Thorpe Family Residences, a Bronx, N.Y.--based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing and support programs to homeless women and children.
"We had a great silent auction," Ann Wronski said of the 25th anniversary fundraiser event. "The people of New Canaan were very generous with their donations."
"I used to play with the kids in the child-care center and taught mothers a GED program," she said.
Wronski now serves on Thorpe's development committee, and her husband, Stephen, plays an active role on the finance committee and as a Thorpe board member. Stephen got involved after he was introduced to the organization by Ann.
"The sisters who ran it were so inspirational to me," Wronski said of her decision to become involved with Thorpe. "They were selfless. To see people like that and live among the poor and give of themselves, they were an inspiration to me. And it was small and you really felt like you could make a difference."
Friday's fundraiser was the first of its kind for Thorpe, and Wronski noted that many New Canaan individuals and organizations were involved in its execution. St. Aloysius Parish and the New Canaan Kiwanis Club are both supporters of Thorpe's work, local band Pink Baby played at the event, and New Canaan residents Nicole Ahrens and Mariella Scofield worked to ensure that the fundraiser went off without a hitch.
"This is the first time we've ever done this," Wronski said. "We sold all our tickets. It's bigger than I ever thought. I'm amazed we made that much money. "
Thorpe Executive Director Michael Callaghan expressed a similar sentiment.
"This is the first real full-blown event, and it did really well," he said.
Callaghan acknowledged Wronski's commitment and dedication to the project. "She's really helped to pull those folks (on the development committee) together to do organizing."
Callaghan explained that projects like Thorpe "are chronically underfunded, but our ability to actually collect payments from the city has flatlined and has not increased in eight or nine years. This helps us keep families housed."
The money raised by Wronski's event, he said, is "a huge piece of support."
Regarding future fundraisers, Wronski insisted that although there is nothing currently in the pipelines, the success of Friday's event encouraged her and the rest of the development committee to put something together again.
"There's nothing planned, but everyone's saying we should do it again next year," she said. "We made so much money; it would be hard when you see that much success, not to."
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